Interview with Nadilyn Beato – Wildlife Illustrator

Nadilyn Beato has established a strong reputation amongst reptile lovers as an extremely talented painter, sculptor and digital illustrator, even attracting the attention of Tomahawk Reptiles to make a sculpture of their logo. She’s also the mastermind behind powerhouse reptile breeder BHB‘s logo, and countless others. She found some time in her busy schedule to answer some questions about herself, her work, and her love of nature’s more exotic animals.

Nadilyn Beato

Firstly, tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Nadilyn Beáto, I’m a 23-year-old New York-based Freelance Illustrator/Designer. I graduated from Parsons School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Illustration in May of 2012.

How did you get started in art, both personally and professionally?

I’ve been making art since I could get my hands on crayons.  Art is my passion and after I graduated from high school I decided to continue my education doing what I love to do.  I attended Parsons School for Design on a HEOP grant, which stands for Higher Education Opportunity Program.  I started to freelance when I was a sophomore in college.  The government decided to cut TAP grants and I had to take out loans to cover the cost of my tuition.  Attending college full time gave me very little time to find a part time job.  I decided to freelance and I was fortunate enough to get some jobs from people who appreciated my work. I recently graduated last May, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Illustration.

Your website, apart from being incredibly well designed, showcases some astounding work of a range of wonderful and exotic animals. What do you use as a basis for the animals that you don’t have as pets?

For animals that I don’t have as pets I get my reference from a variety of photos.  I used to use several photos for reference when creating a piece.  There are always certain aspects from other photos I like to merge together in my mind to create the final piece.


A boa constrictor pendant

Although you are a wildlife illustrator, a look at your prints and sculptures shows a large body of work focused on reptiles. Compared to the number of people with cats and dogs, reptile ownership is a relatively small niche; was it a conscious decision to focus on that market over other animals?

I mainly focus on reptiles because I own a lot of reptiles.  I feel most people only associate “cute” with soft and furry animals and reptiles are not considered beautiful.  I think this stems from the media and a common misrepresentation of reptiles. Reptiles are beautiful and every time I create a piece I want to immortalize my subject’s beauty for others to appreciate.

Do you prefer doing one over the other, for instance the paintings over the sculptures?

I like doing both equally. It is always fun to switch things up once in while.  I am very grateful I am able to work with a variety of mediums.

A digital illustration

A digital illustration; view the making of in the video below

A look at your Facebook and Instagram pages indicate that much of your work is relatively small – pendants, prints, daily creature drawings etc. Then came the tremendous sculpture commission from Tomahawk Reptiles, of the pied python on the axe, which seemed to be much bigger than your usual work. Do you find such projects daunting,and is there any size job you would refuse?

I actually enjoy working larger.  My Senior Thesis in college was a collection of 6 very large sculptures ranging from 7-12 inches tall.  The biggest I have made was 12 inches tall; I am always open to any bigger commissions.

Nadilyn's sculpture for Tomahawk Reptiles

Nadilyn’s sculpture for Tomahawk Reptiles

Following on from that, what would be your ultimate commission? Would you enjoy being immersed in a project that lasts months, like a huge King Kong on the Empire State, or do you prefer the smaller gigs where you work on a wide range in a short space of time?

My ultimate commission would be maybe a life-sized pet, like a lizard or snake.  I think that would be a great challenge and a fun experience.


Tarantula pendant


Leopard Gecko pendant

You’ve drawn, painted and sculpted everything from rats and parrots to lizards and crocodiles, and your pets include tarantulas. Do you have a favourite animal?

That is a tough question.  I really like all animals but if I had to choose one it would be a Tarantula.  I love how unique and interesting they are.  They are gorgeous little creatures misunderstood by society and judged for their appearance instead of the good they do.  They consume a lot of pests in the wild.  They are just adorable little fluffy critters.


Monitor painting

Is there a favourite animal to sketch or sculpt? Are the long shapes of snakes less challenging than a feathered animal or spiky lizard?

My favourite animal to sketch and sculpt would be a snake.  It is always a challenge when it comes to painting the patterns on snakes, but I love challenges.

Chameleon painting

Chameleon painting

Who are your inspirations, in life and for your work?

My inspirations are nature, my pets and Thomas Shahan.  I love his illustrations and macro photography.  He takes macro shots of jumping spiders and I feel that his photos make people appreciate the beauty of those unique little critters.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years I hope to continue making art and doing what I love to do.  I really want to work for zoos doing anything art related, or work for wildlife conservation organizations creating art for their fundraising campaigns.  In the end anything animal or art related would be awesome.

To view Nadilyn’s work, order her work or put in a custom order: